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Film Report on ‘The Lion in winter’ by Anthony Harvey Essay

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Updated: Dec 3rd, 2019


Steered by Anthony Harvey and composed by Joseph E. Levine, the 1968 celluloid, The Lion in the Winter, is a ‘must watch’ chef-d’oeuvre, set in the 12th century and relatable to those who claim to be devotees of the history of politics. It pictures the notion shared by many leaders that, once they enter into leadership, so should be their next of kin and particularly their children.

The Lion in Winter unfolds the events of 12th century, covering countries like England and France, both of which differ politically thus explaining the reason for the difference in the political opinions of Henry and his wife Eleanor regarding the issue of throne inheritance by their sons.

Harvey, in this captivating masterpiece, takes the viewer through a historical voyage, showing the events as they really occurred in England specifically in the 12th century, a period when political conflicts began. It is worth noting that, some characters in the film once existed in history; for instance, Richard, John, and Eleanor, to mention but a few. The director highlights the respective contributions of these people in the making of the present political history of England.

He wants to show that, what people call history is no more than a past real life story experienced by people. A good number of instances in the film are historically accurate. However, Harvey intentionally infixes some scenarios, which contradict the reality as unfolded by history, to meet dramatic effects as well as to imprison the attention of the viewers. However, some historically inaccurate episodes arise from Harvey’s sloppiness.

Historically Accurate and Inaccurate Instances

In this film, the positions given to some characters by the director Harvey concur with history. For instance, history has it that, both Richard and John rose up to kingship positions, just as Harvey shows. In addition, the two are not just imaginary people but real past politicians of England.

In his article, Sincere reveals that. ”…both Richard and John went on…making Eleanor of Aquitaine unique in European history as the wife of two kings and the mother of two others” (14), which show that the two, as well as Eleanor were once alive. Another historical accuracy comes in through the way Harvey depicts the royal families of both France and England.

The two countries are connected but ever in conflicts, just as Harvey pictures through the then enmity between Henry’s sons and Phillip II Augustus, which is no more than the present enmity between France and England. Moreover, Harvey succeeds in picturing the then characters of both Richard and John as they stood in their fight for the crowns.

For instance, the greedy, slim, and immature John in the movie is a copyright of the historical John. The results of the characters as well as their backgrounds, as they stand in the film, are historically accurate. Historically, Henry harboured quite a number of mistresses. In addition, he had many unlawful children as Harvey depicts in the film. However, historical inaccuracies stand in the film.

People have set out to declare The Lion in the Winter a complete fiction following its inaccuracies. The setting of the movie in 1183 contradicts the events that take place during the year. For instance, the movie revolves around the Christmas of 1183. Historically, there existed not even a single Christmas court in 1183 as Harvey brings out.

In addition, the dialogues as well as the actions in the movie bear no historical evidence. In other words, they are mere fabrications. Henry’s affection for his son John is overestimated while his (John) intelligence is underestimated. Sources indicate that he was intelligent. The movie portrays Richard as a homosexual; however, primary sources have shown that he was heterosexual.

Moreover, Harvey pictures Richard as a thick-skulled sportsman while history depicts him as a diplomat and a politician. Many people have commented on the reasons behind the inaccuracies portrayed by the filmmakers. The inclusion of a Christmas court, which did not exist then, makes the movie somewhat intriguing hence capturing the viewers’ attention. In addition, they appear in order to meet the movie’s objectives.

For instance, the inclusion of Eleanor in the film provides the viewer with the knowledge of the link between England and France as well as the root cause of the prevailing enmity between the two countries. This modification of history follows for the purposes of ‘narrative expediency’. On the other hand, mistaking the places that did not exist then is a sign of carelessness and a poor research of part of the filmmakers.

Lessons from the Specific Period

The viewer of this masterpiece has a lot to learn about a specific period in history. Firstly, the political history of England becomes clear right from the year 1183.

Henry II, the French king, stands out as the most authoritative man in his time particularly in Europe because he had control over France more than any other French king. As the movie unfolds, the step taken by Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry suffices for the viewer to realize that both France and England engaged in some mediation talks just like the way these two employ a dialogue to resolve their relationship differences.

In addition, Eleanor provides the viewer with the understanding that France and England were once connected and based on political conflicts, as the two yearned for power; the connections were cut short just as Eleanor divorced the French King. The viewer, through the movie learns the many challenges that faced the royal families, not only in the 12th century, but also today.

Divorces, homosexuality, and power fighting, to mention but a few, stand out in these families. Therefore, it suffices for the viewer to infer that, the present England-France conflicts dates back to the year 1183, when Eleanor the queen and wife of the then French king, divorced him only to marry an English King.

A propaganda Film

Critics and adherents alike have set out to declare the film propaganda. The director bears a handful of intentions of swaying people to a particular way of thinking founded on politics. What Harvey delivers to the viewer is that, women’s wishes are better compared to those of men. This follows from the evident Eleanor’s wish for Richard as being the most suitable future king.

Eleanor’s wish if fulfilled before that of Henry II, who on the other hand prefers John to Richard. Therefore, according to Harvey, women’s ideas are stronger compared to those of men, which is propaganda. In addition, French king divorces Eleanor because of immorality. In response, Eleanor marries an English King. This situation welcomes a three-sided interpretation.

Firstly, it suffices to infer that queens are immoral women whose marriages are characterized by divorces. Secondly, it glorifies England at the expense of France. He wants people to build relationships with England and not France. It can as well mean that Harvey wants to promote English as a language rather than French. Moreover, Harvey promotes the monarchy way of leading people at the expense of democracy.

He wants the viewers to assume that this is the only system of government that involves only family members rather than all people, and regardless of their leadership flaws and weaknesses. Henry was crowned as the king when he was very young. The viewer can considerer this as propaganda where Harvey wants to encourage young people into joining the world of politics. There are no evident instances of stereotyping in this movie.


In conclusion, building on the day-to-day happenings, there stands events parallel to what Harvey pictures in his masterwork. For instance, the issue of Eleanor, who was married by a king and later divorced, only to be married by another, are evident. The former South African president, Nelson Mandela case illustrates this scenario. Graca Machel, his wife, was a former wife of the late Mozambican president.

Instances of young people securing prominent political positions stand in today’s world. Ravalomanana, the president of Madagascar rose to this rank in his thirties as opposed to the common fifties or so where most presidents’ ages range. This parallels with Henry, as brought out in the movie, who attained kingship position at a tender age. All these, among others, are in accord with what Harvey brings out in his chef-d’oeuvre.

Work Cited

Sincere, Rick. The Lion in the Winter: The History of Films. New York: Word Press, 2006. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, December 3). Film Report on ‘The Lion in winter’ by Anthony Harvey. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/film-report-on-the-lion-in-winter-by-anthony-harvey/

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"Film Report on ‘The Lion in winter’ by Anthony Harvey." IvyPanda, 3 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/film-report-on-the-lion-in-winter-by-anthony-harvey/.

1. IvyPanda. "Film Report on ‘The Lion in winter’ by Anthony Harvey." December 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/film-report-on-the-lion-in-winter-by-anthony-harvey/.


IvyPanda. "Film Report on ‘The Lion in winter’ by Anthony Harvey." December 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/film-report-on-the-lion-in-winter-by-anthony-harvey/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Film Report on ‘The Lion in winter’ by Anthony Harvey." December 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/film-report-on-the-lion-in-winter-by-anthony-harvey/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Film Report on ‘The Lion in winter’ by Anthony Harvey'. 3 December.

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